Tuesday, December 16, 2014

4 Short Stories You Need to Read Today

With 2014 drawing to a close, as I do every year, I'm feeling the distinct desire to ingest media. Most specifically, literature and television. I know, TV's going to rot my brain. Doesn't mean I don't partake of it occasionally, particularly when I'm too tired to properly absorb literature. After all, it would just be a waste to let the written word slide over me, rather than penetrate deep.

But I'm getting way off topic.

Lots of lists float around this time of year: 10 Things to Make 2015 the Best Year Ever, 46 Shows to Watch Before Netflix Rends Them From Their List Next Year, 268 Things You Wish You'd Found out About Early Enough to do Them Before the New Year.

I'm hoping to provide something a little more doable. So I give you my end of the year list: 4 Short Stories You Need to Read Today.

Or, you know, whenever you have the time.

No pressure.

This list spans genre, length, subject, time periods, complexity. The only thing I really tried to do was make sure that, if I included it, it was free to read online. Click the story title in the list and it'll take you right to it. These aren't in any order, other than which story weighed on my mind the most at that exact moment.

So, let us begin.


Borges is arguably the very first writer ever identified with the genre of magical realism. And in a lot of ways, Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius is most certainly magic realism. But in a lot of ways, it's more. Or less. Or just something else. The 'story' is sort of it's own thing. The closest examples I can give you aren't all that close. It reminds me of Flatland, in the way that the main body of the 'story' is a description of the culture of Tlön. It reminds of me of the early 90's PC game Myst, in the way that the described and heavily detailed world of Tlön becomes it's own sort of reality. And it reminds me of the Codex Seraphinianus… which makes perfect sense, since the Codex was inspired by the short story. But as fair warning, you'll want to make sure you have ample time to read it. It's only about 5,000 words, but you'll likely need to stop at several points to look up certain philosophical theorems, or translate the sprinklings of German and Latin throughout. And then you'll need time to mull through the story after you read it. It's very dense and a very mentally tiring read. But well worth the effort.


Loved by critics, hated by high school students. Which is so often how it goes. But if they could just look past the necessity of their teenage rebellion, they could see how wonderfully tragic The Lady, or The Tiger? is. A princess loves a man too low for her status. When the king finds out, he puts the man to the usual trial for crimes he's put his royal interest in: he must choose between two doors. One hides a woman of appropriate social standing, the other a nearly starved tiger. He doesn't know which door hides which, of course. If he chooses the door with the tiger, it eats him, of course. If he chooses the woman, she doesn't eat him, but he is required to marry her on the spot. The beauty of this story is that the princess knows which door has the tiger, and which door has the woman. But the woman is an attendant the princess despises. As to the fate of the man, it's never revealed.


I often bring up Berenice as one of my favorite short stories, or among the best of Poe, or good short stories you haven't heard of. And for good reason. More than really any story I've ever read, Berenice is just straight-up creepy. And I know that Poe is known for horror, but most of his stories never really got to me. Berenice did. The obsession. The strange catatonic episodes. The memory loss. It all builds to the climax, one of the eeriest scenes ever penned in the English language, in my opinion. Thirty-two little ivory things scattered on the floor.

4: For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn by Ernest Hemingway

Well, possibly by Ernest Hemingway. Technically, the jury is still out on the actual author, but it's widely accepted/purported that it was penned by Hemingway. I don't have a link, because the title is also the full text of the piece. Widely considered the epitome of flash fiction, and for good reason. It is everything flash is supposed to be: tiny, powerful, memorable. And it's among the tiniest, most powerful, and most memorable out there. Just think about it for a moment, think about what it must mean. Or what it might mean. And whether it's really Hemingway or not, the 'Six Word Story' has taken hold of writers everywhere, both as an exciting medium and as a challenge.

Of course, this isn't in any way a comprehensive list. But these are stories you will find jumping to my tongue when someone needs a recommendation.

What are your must read shorts?

Voss

Sunday, December 14, 2014

THE PARK: Sneak Peek #1



Sir or Madam
You are receiving this letter because you have been selected by Evenstad Media to fill one of twelve exclusive roles in season one of our new reality show, The Park. You have already been collected, your information processed, and delivered to the set. Please do not attempt to leave the arena without explicit permission.
Your goal during your engagement at The Park is simple: survive. There is no time limit. Furnishings have been provided, as well as an ample food supply. However, the food supply will not be replenished. Use it wisely.
Around your neck, you will find a golden medallion. This medallion is a Controlled Energy Storage Unit from Evenstad Technologies. They were created specifically for your usage during your stay at The Park. Depress the button on the side to release the stored energy. When the energy is depleted, the light on the back of the medallion will turn red. When the energy has replenished, the light on the back of the medallion will turn green. The energy from the medallion cannot be released until the light has turned green. There are other Energy Storage Units hidden around the arena to aid you in your survival.
The arena will be monitored fully at all times in order to capture the true essence of game play for the viewers. Further details of recording and broadcast were explained in your release clauses.
No criminal charges shall be filed against any action(s) performed during the duration of your participation in The Park. All city, county, state, federal, and/or international laws are to be considered suspended during your time here.
The arena will remain closed until only a single player remains alive. The winner will receive twenty million (20,000,000) dollars (USD). The families of the losers will be provided for.
In your pocket, you will find a tablet and detachable keyboard for you to keep a journal. While this is not required by the rules of The Park, it is recommended. Extended periods of time spent in the arena may cause psychological trauma. Our experts believe that writing a journal may help to keep the mind sharp and stave off the possible ill effects of your stay.
No other information will be provided, so as to protect the integrity of game play.
We wish you the best of luck,
Evenstad Media

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Pre-Order: The Park

12 Contestants
20,000,000 Dollars
1 Survivor


Available for pre-order at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Park-Voss-Foster-ebook/dp/B00QT0UWXA/

Releases January 1st, 2015

For more information, check out The Park tab at the top of the page, or subscribe to my newsletter to keep up with all new releases and get information before it hits anywhere else.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Park Trailer

Here it is! The trailer for my newest book, The Park. (Get it? Trailer Park. I'm so funny.)




Keep your eyes peeled for more, and subscribe to make sure you don't miss any of the news to come.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

$0.99 for Mythica

Starting today, my short story collection Mythica will be just 99 cents on Amazon. Come check it out HERE.



Six fantasy shorts for under a dollar. From a future obsessed with the power of powdered fairies to the real story of Sleeping Beauty, these stories are designed to take you on a journey to the deepest reaches of imagination. So pick up your copy today.

Voss

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

King Jester Novellas

Hello, all! I'm sorry I haven't been here as much as I would like. My laptop charger is currently... well... dead. The new one is on it's way and, for the time being, I'm using a friend's spare computer.

So, I'm sure by now that all my regular readers know about the King Jester books. While the last one won't be out until next year, I'm already feeling a little pang of pain to see my babies go. But as I was reading through, I got some ideas.

So I'm making the announcement here: the King Jester books are not done with just the trilogy. The 'Tales from Zirkua' novellas are already in the works on my end, and I'll be able to devote a lot more time to them once NaNoWriMo is done and over with.

'Tales from Zirkua' will give you the chance to see more of the characters we love. Or at least I love. Right now, there are six planned, each exploring the past of a separate character from the King Jester universe.

I hope you're all as excited as I am about this. I know I'll have a lot of fun with it, and I sincerely hope you'll have fun reading the books.

Ta-ta for now,
Voss

Monday, October 27, 2014

Snarkology Halloween Hop: Top Three Halloween Reads

Dead leaves. Heavy rain. Cold air. Sales on chocolate.

Is it any wonder I love Halloween? I mean, those are some of my favorite things. Throw some good vodka into the mix and I'm set for a week.

But Halloween inspires something else in me: it makes me want to curl up with something familiar, and something seasonal. That covers everything, too. A mug of hot chocolate. An old quilt. The same cat that sits in your lap in spite of the date even seems more special to me this time of year. And it affects how I read too. So, I present to you my top three Halloween reads in no particular order.



Harry Potter: I'm not entirely sure how Harry Potter ended up as a Halloween thing... and a Christmas thing... and a summer thing, too, in fact. But I remember Harry Potter marathons on TV leading up to Halloween. And getting ready to watch the movies always involved reading the books again, for me. Which is why I've read them 10+ times. So this one's a little bit more personal than the others on the list, but it brings up memories of Halloween for me just as much as say, Hocus Pocus or Halloweentown.

Berenice: Poe has always been one of my favorite authors, and not just for horror. But Halloween does always bring me back to that creep factor, and I can't think of another Poe story creepier than Berenice. The teeth. The disease. The psychosis. It's chilling and I love it. Hands down my favorite Poe story.

The Night Circus: And here it is. This book feels like a rainy day to me. Something beautiful to be savored while it lasts. Someone very very dear turned me onto it, and I'm so glad she did. It's pretty clear that I like circuses, I think. It's dark. It's magical. It's romantic. To me, The Night Circus embodies everything I want out of Halloween. Which is why, when leaves crunch underfoot, I find myself wanting to dive back in again.

So there it is. What are your favorite Halloween reads? Comment below, and don't forget to check out the other bloggers on this hop HERE!


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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Blow Up Your Closet

I like men. That's been public knowledge since late 2006. I got comfortable enough to freely discuss it about a year later.

Back then, it bothered me. Not that I never notice the little (and of course the big) social and legal issues, but I can honestly say that, at least for me, it changed. I can't say that it got better. Me coming out didn't change anything outside. But I got better. Coming out and being honest with the world around me made me more comfortable being me.

I was in high school. I had a lot of things working against me. I was never the best looking or the fittest or the best at the whole social interaction thing. Pile 'likes boys' on top of that and you don't exactly get a kinder world. Yeah, I did have problems. But I had fewer problems looking myself in the mirror. I knew, when I stared into my own eyes, that I could really see myself. Finally, I could look and know me. Know Voss.

2005 was when I first dared to breathe the words to another soul. That was a different kind of coming out. That was a testing ground, and I was lucky enough that it went well. He ended up being my first boyfriend.

You may not be that lucky. You might get hit or shunned or yelled at. Or you could be luckier than me. You could find the absolute love of your life. You could remember it as the best singular moment in your existence.

February of 2014, I came out as genderqueer. And again, I found myself more comfortable. Little things that bothered me, like getting mistaken for a woman or being grouped in with the 'ladies' when hanging out with my female friends, didn't bother me so much.

But more than anything, that experience proved something to me: it's not a singular experience. It's a parade. Little moments, little events, little steps toward fully accepting yourself. Your sexuality, your gender, everything.

Coming out of the closet can be one of the most daunting things members of the QUILTBAG+ community will ever have to do. Hell, it'll pretty much definitely make the top ten list for just about anyone. And that sucks. It sucks that we have to come out. It sucks that there even is a closet, because it's a closet that we didn't build. I certainly didn't. Ever since I came out, I've been working to tear that damn closet down.

And thank God, we're getting close. We have thirty states now with legal same-sex marriage. The majority of the US population is in support of same-sex marriage. We're making progress. When I try to think about the changes we've been through, try to see it through the eyes of someone from the forties or fifties, when this thing wasn't talked about, wasn't acknowledged... well, I can't. There's not way in hell I can even begin to fathom the way the world must look now. But I know that whatever little bit of that truth I can touch upon brings tears to my eyes. Finally, they can begin to be who they are, undo some of that damage they incurred from the closet society built them into.

If you're in the closet, know that there are people on the other side of that door. There's a whole community waiting to take you in. People who have been through it before. If you don't think you can, you'r wrong. You're dead wrong. You're stronger than you could ever imagine. I know that just because you're in the closet to begin with. You're bearing that weight, and that by itself has made you nigh-indestructible. You can do this.

If you think you can't because there aren't a set of arms there to embrace you, you're wrong. There's someone there. There's me. I'll be there no matter what. Contact me here. Twitter me. Facebook. Smoke signal. Don't think you'll fall. You probably don't know me. I don't care. Talk to me if you have no one else. Or call a hotline. But don't let anything stop you.

Blow up your closet.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Writer Roundup: 20,000 Names



Yikes. I've been so caught up in drafting, I've completely neglected the last few Friday Writer Roundups. My apologies. This book has stolen my attention quite effectively.

But I'm here today, however late, with one of my favorite resources: 20,000 Names.

When it comes to naming websites, it's not the most glamorous, but it's by far my favorite. It gives the ethnic origin, the meaning, and the traditional gender of all the names it lists. And, while I can't say for certain that they actually list 20,000 individual names on their website, it wouldn't surprise me if that number was at least close.

But there's another one I find almost as useful: the Social Security Administration's Baby Names Section. It only really helps with American names, for obvious reasons, but it has lists of the top hundred or so names for boys and girls in any decade from the 1880s to the 2000s. Which makes it awesome for NPC characters. Just give a guess to their age, subtract it from the date your work is set, and then go through that decade's listing until something catches your attention.

Of course, there are always other alternatives. SeventhSanctum has several name generators in its depths, including Angel Names, Vampire Names, and plain General Names. Another one that can be useful, and also make a very good breeding ground for procrastination, is Behind the Name's generator. You can customize your generator for several factors (origin, masculine/feminine, style), and have it provide you with a matching surname, or provide your own. The downside? It does one at a time only.

So, I hope you have a lovely rest of your Friday. And don't forget, there's still time to enter the drawing for free copies of Zirkua Fantastic and The Jester Prince.


Voss

Thursday, October 2, 2014

King Jester Giveaway

Hello, all!

Today is my birthday, and this month is also the anniversary of the release of Zirkua Fantastic.

So, in honor of that, I want to give you the chance to win copies of the two King Jester books currently available, Zirkua Fantastic and The Jester Prince.


Just enter the Rafflecopter below and, when it's done, who knows? Maybe you'll be the lucky lucky winner.


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Monday, September 29, 2014

National Coffee Day: 5 Coffee Factoids about Voss Foster

It's today you know.

There are a handful of literary holidays, observances, and celebrations out there. Banned Books Week. NaNoWriMo. Edgar Allan Poe's birthday (January 19th). Edgar Allan Poe's deathday (October 7th).

But, to many a writer, there is no more important day than National Coffee Day. September 29th. Free coffee at some of the big chains (Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks), and some of the smaller local shops (Unfortunately none of them in my town, but life does go on... theoretically.).

So, in celebration of this most glorious day, and as an occasional worshiper at the Church of the Immaculate Roast (Praise be to the grower, and to the roaster, and to the French press.), I want to share my coffee preferences with y'all. Just a few.

1: I may be a Washington native, but Starbucks is not my first choice for coffee. At all. I prefer The Hardback Cafe. If you haven't been, give it a try.

2: If you ever have to make me a cup of coffee (for whatever reason), it's three sugars and four creams.

3: My favorite coffee mug, a gift from Andy Jensen over at Pigs and Mirrors (sorry about the image quality):



4: When I'm at home, I like my coffee simple. Not that I have an issue with fancy coffee... but my wallet does. I go straight for the Folger's Black Silk, and that runs through my $8 Wal~Mart coffee maker.

5: I once drank so much coffee I got actual, factual caffeine poisoning.

How about you? Any coffee stories to share? Favorite way to have it? Thoughts on flavored coffee? Latte? Espresso? I can talk about this subject for days.

And don't forget to subscribe!

Voss

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Writer Roundup: Tomato.es



Last year during NaNoWriMo, my Co-ML came up with an ingenious method to make our Nanites work their tails off. She started us off sprinting. Short bursts of writing (10-20 minutes) intermixed with 5-10 minute breaks. It was a way to show the Nanites who were 'too busy' that they only needed to devote an hour or two a day, whenever they could get it in. Fifteen minutes here, ten minutes there. Turns out, of course, that it wasn't an original idea, but she hadn't heard of it when she came up with it, so it was a totally awesome little brain-baby.



Well, I found something just as good, and it has it's own website. Today, I bring you the Pomodoro Technique, and a free supporting website, Tomato.es. The basis of Pomodoro is to increase productivity with the same basic principles that make sprinting work: concentrated periods of work, interspersed with regular breaks.

You work for twenty-five minutes, then mark off that twenty-five minute work session and move on to a five minute break. After four sets of twenty-five, you take a fifteen minute break. And it's that simple. It sounds a little strange, but it really works. Not only do you write words, but you condition yourself to write a lot of words in a short amount of time. I mean, you only have twenty-five minutes to work right now. You can't rely on more. So you'd better bang out some words. When you then don't use the Pomodoro Technique, you'll find that you're writing words faster in general, hence increasing overall productivity.

It's that simple. And the Internet is full of so many ways to work it. There are even apps you can download to help you, such as Pomodroido, Pomodoro Timer, and the desktop compatible, and very unobtrusive Tomighty. Or , of course, you can do it the simple and cheap way and just watch the clock, or use one of the thousand online timers out there. But if you, like me, would rather cut back on your workload as much as possible, and you have access to the Internet, you'll be best off with Tomato.es.


Voss

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Big Reveal

I think it's time for this. It's been a long time coming, but I think it's really, truly time to make the final announcement.

See, I live a double life. The one you've seen, Voss Foster's life, is the one that most people see. It's basically accurate, minus a few personal details I would simply rather not share. But everyone has those.

However, there's a whole separate life that I've been... not hiding, but certainly not making clearly public information.

I am Raven de Hart, author of gay erotica and erotic romance. Since the inclusion of her as a pen name, I have kept it mostly on the down low. My writer and reader friends know, for the most part, but that's about where it ends.

Until today. I made a statement about it on the Torquere Twitter account this morning, and just put up a corroborating statement on my Twitter account. So it's out in the open. I am a singular person, yes. But I have two brands, for lack of a better term. This way, no one accidentally picks up a steamy erotic book, not expecting it from Voss Foster. And it works in reverse--they know that, if it says Raven de Hart on the cover, it's not going to be PG.

So there it is: the secret is out in the open. I feel liberated: no more hiding anything, now. I am free. We are free?

There's freedom, at any rate.

Voss

Monday, August 25, 2014

Announcing Dark Dancer, a Steampunk Fantasy Novel

Today, I'm thrilled to host Jaleta Clegg. She's got a book that I've been very excited about for a long time: Dark Dancer.



What do you get when you mash together steampunk airships and metal men, Shakespeare's fairy world, legends of the fae, monsters, a prophecy, pirates, evil wizards, a young woman with stolen memories, and crystals full of power? You get Dark Dancer. This is how I do fantasy.

The idea for the series came from several places. I found a cool piece of art on DeviantArt (http://anacorreal.deviantart.com/art/Release-80921725) that sparked the idea of a woman with the power to open gates between worlds. I read a series by Frances Pauli where the passages between our world and the fairy world are re-opened (Changeling Race - http://www.amazon.com/Moth-Darkness-Changeling-Race-Book-ebook/dp/B005GRBYNE/) that fired my imagination about elves and magic and their world crossing with ours. I watched too many anime episodes with airships and cool steampunk tech. I've always been in love with Errol Flynn's version of pirates. Out of this tangle came the story for Dark Dancer.

Sabrina has magic that can open the portals to the fairy world. But with that power comes great danger. Her mother tries to keep her hidden and her power a secret, even from her. Sabrina's ties to the other world are too strong. Ruthless Seligh Lords, hungry for power, will stop at nothing to gain control of Sabrina and her gift. And magic will find a way to express itself, even if it destroys the one holding it.

I'm excited to release this book. It's my first fantasy novel and it's a stand-alone story, not part of a series. I have eleven other novels out, all part of a science fiction adventure series. I've published several dozen short stories ranging from science fiction to silly horror to fantasy, so I'm no stranger to the genre. Writing about magic really isn't that much different than writing about technology, though. And for me, it's all about the characters and story. Everything else is window-dressing to make it all more exciting.

Dark Dancer has lots of great characters. I had way too much fun dreaming them up. From elves with pointed ears, slanted eyes, and a penchant for arrogance, to ferocious pixie warriors, to renegade pirates, to evil sorcerers hungry for power, to talking birds, the book has a rich cast. The star of the book is a bewildered young woman trying to figure out who she is and how her past ties her to the world of the Seligh.

With magic, mayhem, monsters, and just a touch of romance, Dark Dancer is the type of book I love to read. I hope you enjoy it, too.

You can find a complete list of all my work at http://www.jaletac.com

Available in ebook and print.
Smashwords (all ebook formats) - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/465920
Kindle - http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Dancer-Jaleta-Clegg-ebook/dp/B00MRANX5A

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Writer Roundup: Sonar


One of the most embarrassing things that can happen to a writer is submitting a piece to a market that already rejected you. I mean, getting rejected once is bad enough as it is, but twice? From the same people? On the same piece? Now, not only do they not want it, but they're starting to question just how desperate/egotistical/insert adjective you are, subbing to them multiple times with this thing?

Well, those worries are ended (and for someone as paranoid as I am, it was a big worry) with Spacejock's Sonar Submission Tracker.



When you first open up Sonar, it can be a little intimidating. There's a touch of a learning curve to it, and the Manual that's provided is sometimes less than helpful, depending on what it is you need to do. But it's well worth the small amount of effort you put forward.

So let's go through it, just very quickly. The very first thing is to start a new file. Call it whatever you like. Mine is 'Submission Tracker.' Cut and dry, easy to find. Once you have that, you'll have this nice blank spreadsheet looking thing.

Now you load up your work(s), one at a time. This is where you can begin to see the first glimmer of hope—this program could rock. You go up to Works, click add, and enter in the vitals of each individual piece: the title, the word count, the genre, any description and comments you might have for it. You can even link to the actual file, right in here, so you can easily access it while you're going through Sonar. So, you set up MegaDoc, your novel about a robot crocodile that got infected by a corrupt Word file. It's all in there, and ready for step two.

Now you set up the markets. For the most part, your markets are probably going to just be the places you submit whatever pieces to, but if you have markets you submit to regularly, it wouldn't hurt to add them in. It's the same shtick for adding a market as it is to add a work. You go to the Markets tab, click Add, and begin. The name of the market, the editor, the guidelines, even all the contact information for them. And you've decided to submit MegaDoc to Corporate ArtSlayer Press, dedicated to wringing every bit of artistic merit out of their books before publication.

Again, we hit the tabs: Submission, Add. Then you pick your work, you pick your market, and you enter the date. Once you do that, it'll tell you exactly what's going on: MegaDoc <> 2014-08-22 <> Sent to Corporate ArtSlayer Press (Out 2 days). And it lets you see if you've sold it, too.

Now, this is where it becomes your safety net. Say that Corporate ArtSlayer doesn't take this genius manuscript, for whatever reason. Bad taste, most likely. It then sits there for a while as you mope and consider if you should maybe cut it down from 400,000 words. But then, as you're looking around one day, inspiration strikes: you should submit it. And you found the perfect press: Corporate ArtSlayer. So, you get ready to go and… wait… Sonar says I've subbed this to them already. Oh lordy lord, thank you for saving me, Sonar!

Now, there are other options for this, although I don't think any of them quite stack up to Sonar in usefulness. Duotrope, of course, has a submission tracking option for paying members, which also gives you access to the response data, something I very much miss. The Submission Grinder has the same exact setup, but they are A: still new, so not very well-known, and B: Free. It's a trade-off, really. Or, you could do what I did before I found Sonar: an Excel document or other spreadsheet. It works, but with Sonar being free, I'd say it's worth it.


Voss

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Apologies

Hello, everyone.

I feel I need to apologize to y'all. With The Jester Prince release, I've been majorly busy, and my blog has been suffering for it. But fear not, I intend to return. With The Park totally drafted, the blog tour petering out to the end, and a whole world of creative freedom stretching before me, I'll be free as a public domain Kindle book on Amazon. For a little bit, anyway.

So stay tuned for your regularly scheduled programming. I'll be here Friday with the Friday Writer Roundup. If you need your fix before that, I'm on Speculative Friction today, and I'll be talking to Jennifer Willis tomorrow.

Until then, I bid you adieu.

Voss

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Jester Prince: Tobias

Tobias tossed his hoop into the air and spun on his toe. The whole world around him twisted and blurred. He kept his eyes focused on the spinning hoop, tracking it. The breeze caught it, or he'd thrown it the wrong way. Whatever the cause, the hoop listed to the right. Tobias pushed off with his other foot, speeding up his rotation and sliding to the right just as his hoop came back down. He caught it and skidded to a halt.
-Zirkua Fantastic

Tobias, a child of the circus. Zirkua Fantastic was the only life he knew.

Until King Jester broke free.

His love is at stake. His very life could end here. And even he doesn't know his own story, or his own place in this new world.

What will become of him? Read The Jester Prince, Book Two of the King Jester Trilogy.



With the destruction of Zirkua Fantastic, King Jester, the spirit of discord, has been unleashed once more upon the Earth. Only Toby, a fresh, untrained immortal, and the other former members of Zirkua Fantastic dare to stand against his chaos. But their hold is tenuous, and they are only truly safe from his power within the bounds of their camp. King Jester grows more powerful and more dangerous with each passing day. But he's made one mistake. That mistake could be his undoing. He's stolen Toby's soul mate, Marley. When he discovers Marley's location, Toby knows what he has to do. He will rescue Marley, even if it means he has to face King Jester alone.

But the others don't let him go at it alone. Marley has information about the resistance. They can't afford to let him stay in King Jester's control. In desperation, the immortals raise an army to storm the compound. But will it be enough to challenge the embodiment of chaos himself? All they can do is hope. Hope and put their faith in love.


EXCERPT:

Moonlight swirled down, mingling with the very edges of the firelight. Coyote whipped a flask out of nothing and poured a messy drink into his mouth. Half of it went down the front of his jacket. "Anyone?" He offered it around, but no one moved. With a sigh, he put it back wherever it had come from. "Honestly, you'd think I was trying to kill you."

Madame Zerga scoffed. "Not you directly." She showed him an image on her mirror -- red eyes. "Lou's coming back soon."

Coyote sat straighter. "Lou?"

She nodded. "Soon. I thought I should do you the courtesy of warning you."

He nodded, slumping lower. But his shoulders never relaxed. "Thank you." He scooted closer to Toby. "We haven't been properly introduced, Tobias."

"Tragic."

Coyote's fangs caught the firelight when he grinned. "You have Madame Zerga's eyes."

"My mother."

"I know." He pulled even closer. "You go by Toby, right?"

"Yeah."

Coyote's voice could barely be called a whisper. It quivered out. But the words could have been shouted, for the way they slashed out at Toby. "You must be the one he talks about."

He's just trying to break you. Even knowing that, his reply rushed out, frantic. "Who?"

It couldn't be him. Couldn't. Coyote fixed his inhuman eyes on Toby. "Marley. My brother."

The fire didn't exist. It couldn't. Not if Toby could be this cold next to it. It had to be an illusion. He struggled to speak, his jaw just as frozen as everything else around him. He only managed one word. "Marley?"

Coyote nodded. "But he's not doing very well, right now."

"What?"

"Not well at all." He came so close when he whispered that Toby could feel the moist heat of his breath."I can show you, if you want."

"Yes." The word slipped out before Toby could even think about it

"Are you sure? It's gruesome and--"

Toby wanted to hit him, pull his hair, somehow hurt him. But he couldn't risk it. The others hadn't heard their exchange. He needed them all to stay ignorant. "Just do it, damn it."

TOUR STOPS:
Wednesday, August 13th: Voss Foster: Demon Hunting and Tenth Dimensional Physics (http://vossfoster.blogspot.com)
Thursday, August 14th: Siana Wineland: Siana's Place (http://www.sianawineland.com/)
Friday, August 15th: S.Evan Townsend: Writing Thoughts (http://blog.sevantownsend.com/)
Saturday, August 16th: Iyana Jenna: Iyana Jenna (http://iyanajenna.com/)
Sunday, August 17th: TR Goodman: trgoodman.net (http://www.trgoodman.net)
Monday, August 18th: T. Strange: T.Strange (http://tqstrange.blogspot.com/)
Tuesday, August 19th: Frances Pauli: Speculative Friction (http://francespauli.blogspot.com)
Wednesday, August 20th: Jennifer Willis: Jennifer Willis (http://jennifer-willis.com/)
Thursday, August 21st: Cathy Hird: Open One More (http://openonemore.com/)
Friday, August 22nd: J.J. DiBenedetto: Writing Dreams (http://writingdreams.net/)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Flash Fiction: Face

She stretched from her sleep, brushing the cold satin canopy of her bed—a gift from a former lover. It took effort to pull herself from the depths of the silken sheets and pillows, but there was no hurry for her to go anywhere—no one would dare rush her. When she finally managed to get on her feet, the woman walked no more than a yard from her bedside and stopped. The mirror. There it stood behind the thick curtain, half a century of dust coating the folds of the fabric. A tear streaked down her face, following the scars and wrinkles, but she brushed it away—tears would do nothing for her.

She stalked to the old cabinet and her spine chattered in fear—the clasp hung loose between the doors. She reached a mangled, shivering hand out, pulled open one of the doors just enough to see inside and fell to her knees—painted porcelain shrapnel littered the lining of the cabinet. She had nothing without them. She reached up, opened the carved doors the rest of the way and burst into tears—the shards showered down around her, slicing her skin. She stared up, saw a single perfect face and reached for it, but to no avail—it was only a photograph.

No one could love you without a mask. Her father’s voice burned in her skull. Through the blurring rain of tears she grabbed pieces of pale china and jammed them against one another. Red trails cascaded from her hands, staining the floor and glass crimson.

She crawled across the sharp, broken doll faces and ripped away the curtain from her mirror. Dust exploded through the air, landing thick on her floor. That was the face no one knew, the face she kept hidden from the world. She smeared the blood across her skin, the red liquid pooling in the deep pockmarks and wrinkles.

Pulling her skin taut, she caught sight of the wine-stain birthmarks and painted them over with red—it was all she could do now. She clutched a larger piece of one of the masks, the smooth surface cool against her skin, and ran it along her forehead. More blood flooded down, dyeing her skin like a rose.

She couldn't afford a new face—all of her wealth came from suitors. All of her suitors came for the angelic beauty. Once, too many years ago to count, she may have gone outside to find work, but not now—no one would love her without a mask. So she let the blood flow.

Red would be her new visage.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Writer Roundup: Microsoft Word


This week, I'm touching on something so ubiquitous in the modern writing world that it honestly didn't occur to me until now that I might want to do a feature on it. And, for once, my big, main selection isn't free. I, the master of frugality, am recommending that you pay for something out of your wordmonkey pittance of a salary. This week is word processors and for me, Microsoft Word is the alpha and the omega.



And it's not just because of my personal feelings. In general, if you intend to publish your work, it will probably, at one point, have to be in .doc format. It's just the way that the publishing industry works.

But aside from that Microsoft Word has been around for quite a while, and that's let it learn a few tricks. Aside from being a moderately simple word processor (Honestly, you don't normally touch 80% of the tools provided in the program.), it has Track Changes. Nowadays, most word processors have a Track Changes feature. This lets you (or someone else) make changes to a document without deleting the original, so that you, the author, can make a decision on how to change things, or whether you should change them at all.

Word's Track Changes feature is just better. I've tried many over the years, but Word's is the most user-friendly, the simplest, and the clearest. It may not seem like a big thing but, at least for this writer, a good, reliable Track Changes is very, very important. And Word also has a decent, though not perfect, spell check (I wouldn't trust the grammar checker a far as I could throw it, however… and given that it's just a string of ones and zeroes, that isn’t far.) and is very easy to use for basic formatting changes (Alignment, font size, italics, bold, et cetera.).

The biggest downside, of course, is the price. It's… steep. Not Photoshop steep, but steep for what amounts to an electronic sheet of paper. But I wouldn't switch to another program for a hundred bars of chocolate. And that, my friends, is saying something. I do love me some chocolate.

As always, there are alternatives. The big competitor is Scrivener. It's billed as a tool specifically for fiction writers. It includes planning and organizing tools for your notes, your plots, your chapters. All that good stuff. Personally, though? I can't stand Scrivener. A lot of my writer friends use it, and it works wonders for them. I just can't. It makes me want to throw things.

Another program that I recommend, despite my somewhat checkered past with it, is Open Office. And this one's actually free. It's designed to fill the void for people who can't get their hands on Microsoft Office for whatever reason, and it can actually save files in .doc format. However, I have had issues with it changing formatting when saving in a foreign file type like that. Putting whole paragraphs in all caps and such like that. I've also talked to a lot of people about that, and I seem to be the only one who ever had that issue. So take that as you will.

Aside from those big three, there are some interesting little processors scattered around, including Word's former competitor, Corel WordPerfect. You won't hear much about it anymore, but it still has a fairly faithful following. It's really not that much different from word, aside from having more control available for internal formatting and saving as a weird file type no publisher will touch. OmmWriter is one of a new school of word processors, designed for meditative writing and, theoretically, to help you enter the all important flow state. And another one I found and intend to play with is Q10. Perhaps that will, at long last, unseat Word as the crux of my writing. We'll see.

Any word processors you love that I missed? Let me know, and be sure to subscribe for more, and to see how my relationship with Q10 goes.


Voss

Monday, August 4, 2014

Shifting Gears

Lord, I have terrible titles, don't I? But it works.

See, with 'The Jester Prince' coming next Wednesday, and the third book just waiting for a single editing pass before I send it in to Prizm Books, I feel like playing somewhere else. I've been in the circus for a long time and I loved every second of it. But now... it's just time for a change.

I have a few projects still to be worked on, of course. My book about marionettes. My air pirate adventure novella. My big sci-fi series. And some smaller things, of course. Shorts and such. But lately, I've been bombarded with new ideas. Not all of them will turn out to be viable in the near future, but I'm confident that all of them can be placed, when the time comes.

I'll be sad to see the circus go, and I won't see it again, other than my final edits, until close to when book three comes out. Do I think it will be my last circus book? Well, I just have an answer for that one. It could be. Or not. I don't even know if it's going to be the last time I play in that world, yet. It's all up in the air.

What I have are possibilities. And those are good things to have.

Voss

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Music of the Circus

Have I made it obvious enough yet that I wrote a book about a circus? If not, let me reiterate:



I wrote a book about a circus. No, I won't bore you with a buy link… but if you're interested, it's over in the right sidebar.

Music is a huge portion of the whole circus experience. Of course, the biggest, most famous piece of circus music is far and away 'Thunder and Blazes' by Julius Fucik. When we think of circus music, it's normally 'Thunder and Blazes.' There are a few other pieces ('Barnum and Bailey'sFavorite' and, mainly during trapeze acts, 'Sobre las Olas.'), but 'Thunder and Blazes' is the key piece.

There's also 'The Stars and Stripes Forever' by John Phillip Sousa… but it's more than a little infamous in circus history. 'The Stars and Stripes Forever' was played during emergencies. Once the performers heard those first few measures, they knew the act was done. Time to get the audience out and start tearing down the big top. Something is very very wrong.

Of course now, circus music has evolved even further. We have things today like Cirque Berzerk and, of course, Cirque du Soleil. They have composers dedicated to aiding the feeling of a show. From the darkness of Alegria to the sheer, unending intensity of Kooza. It's an evolution, and I love it. Rather than borrowing music, which aided the wonderful and very piecemeal feel of the classic circus, we now have a sleek feeling, a unity of concept as the circus arts are reinvented. I can't get enough of it. I tried to adopt a similar idea in Zirkua Fantastic. I leave it up to the readers to decide how well I did it, but I feel that, with a circus so long-lived as Zirkua, they would evolve to fit the modern times a little better. And that includes the music, exclusively provided by a single violinist.

What's your favorite circus or circus act (I personally love the Cyr wheel)? How does music work with the acts? Let me know, and subscribe, if you so desire.


Voss

Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Writer Roundup: The Submission Grinder

This is one I'm particularly in love with. Does anyone remember Duotrope? I mean, Duotrope's still around, but they finally had to become a subscription site in order to cover their costs. For a long time, I missed them greatly. There just wasn't a replacement.

And then, along comes the new kid. Diabolical Plots'Submission Grinder.



It's great. It's almost like having Duotrope back in my life, which pleases me to no end. For anyone who never got to use Duotrope, it was the king of submission aggregators (and still is, actually, but I prefer free, and I prefer to offer you free tools, when possible). It had all the submissions categorized by genre, sub-genre, theme, word count, payscale, type of project, and a handful of other things. It was glorious.

Well, The Submission Grinder does pretty much the same thing. It lacks the subgenre category, which is a slight annoyance on occasion, but it also let's you search for markets with certain qualifications, such as SFWA and RWA Qualified. Which is awesome, from time to time. And, as with Duotrope, you can register in order to help you keep track of your submissions, as well as improve the data The Submission Grinder has to draw from.

Now, as always, there are alternatives. If you just want a listing of open markets, specifically speculative fiction, head over to Ralan.com. It doesn't have a search function, but it has categories based on pay, as well as a category for anthologies, one for contests, and one for miscellaneous things, like flash, poetry, and audio.

Another one, specifically for any erotica authors out and about here on my blog, is ERWA's Author Resources. Now, don't go here if you don't want to risk some explicit language, but, if you writer erotica/erotic romance, it's a good place to find not only anthologies and magazines, but also full-length markets.

And of course, there's Duotrope. It's not exorbitant in any sense of the word. $5 for a month or, if you go for a year subscription $50. I know a lot of authors who will spend that much just on their own website hosting, if not more. If you plan to write, or find yourself writing, a lot of short stories, I would say it's a good investment to at least consider making.

If you liked this and want to learn more about writing tools next week, pop up top and hit subscribe.


Voss

Monday, July 28, 2014

6 Lies Fantasy Writers Tell

6: Harry Potter? Yeah, it's all right.

5: I don't need to explain it. It's magic!

4: I didn't plan any of this. It just happened.

3: Maps? Who uses maps? I've got it all right up here.

2: My dragons/vampires/elves are different. I called them drakes/bloods/angelicks.

1: No, it's not Tolkienesque.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

7 Under-Appreciated Sci-Fi Reads

Last week, we took a look at some fantasy books that just deserve a little more attention than they've been getting. Today, we turn to the science fiction side of the spectrum, throw out a few more books to make your to-be-read pile all the larger.

7: Can of Worms by Kathy Mackel


Remember when sci-fi was fun? Aliens and technology and adventure? That's Can of Worms. It rose to popularity during the era of Disney Channel Original Movies, and that's how I discovered it. A TV movie. I proceeded to read it ten or fifteen time. In a row. It's the story of Mike Pillsbury and his attempts to move through the sea of the public school system, all the while dealing with a cavalcade of aliens drawn by the signal he sent out into the universe, all ready to 'rescue' him from his family. And of course, things take a turn for the worse. But as far as sci-fi goes nowadays, it's a nice, light read.

6: Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott



Flatland does have a certain level of popularity, but will that last? As we, unfortunately, lose our oldest generation of sci-fi readers, more and more classics fall by the wayside. Already, enough people haven't read Flatland. But I think it deserves attention, if only because of how completely groundbreaking it was at the time. In 1884, Edwin Abbott published Flatland under the pen name A. Square as the memoirs of a resident of Flatland, a two-dimensional world. But our noble square is not your average square. He receives a message from another world. A sphere who descends into flatland from our world to show him the truth. An allegory to it's core, the very fact that a work in such a time period, one that not subtly suggests that God may, in fact, be quite fallible, astounds me to this day. And you can't beat the price—under two dollars for an ink and paper copy.

5: Hopscotch by Kevin J. Anderson



Now, Kevin J. Anderson is hardly a name to be forgotten in the world of modern speculative fiction. But try to talk to someone about Hopscotch. How many people have read it? I've been to numerous sci-fi and fantasy cons, both as a fan and as a panelist, and I have yet to run across a single other soul who has read the book, or even heard of it.
It tells the story of a group of young people in a world where body-swapping is not only prevalent, but quite normal. An artist who switches out with another to avoid exhaustion. A young woman seeking some sort of spiritual truth. A government officer without the ability to swap, but unfooled by the mutable outward appearance of the world's population. I read it first in middle school, and it's stuck with me since then.

4: Manta's Gift by Timothy Zahn



Jupiter: the great, inscrutable gas giant. What lies beneath the surface? What could possibly withstand the gravitational force of such a massive stellar body? Timothy Zahn, well known to fans of the Star Wars Extended Universe as the creator of Mara Jade and Admiral Thrawn, answers that question—the Qanskas. They travel from gas giant to gas giant throughout the universe, floating about and just surviving. Our main character, injured, is given the chance to join his consciousness with the body of one of the Qanska (I know, Avatar… but this came first. Remember that.). They accept him… kind of. As he moves deeper into the Qanska society, he learns the truth. Whether he wants to or not.

3: Ultra Fuckers by Carlton Mellick III



Dystopian fiction has always been one of my favorites. Now, technically, Ultra Fuckers is considered bizarro fiction, which is a relatively new genre that sprung out of splatterpunk and magical realism, but it reads exactly life sci-fi. Weird sci-fi, but sci-fi. It begins innocently enough: a dinner party with a woman's new boss. It's in this brand new housing development, but the GPS isn't working. Before too long, she abandons her husband, the story's main character, and he has to try and find his way out. But that won't happen. This housing development keeps growing. Constantly. It's computer programmed for perfection, but the computer has a bug. Of course it does. Soon enough, the whole world is one big housing development, complete with the ubiquitous goldfish mohawked robot cyclops.
I told you it was weird.
As with most dystopian fiction, it's not particularly hopeful, but it's a hell of a read. And you can finish it, cover to cover, in a few hours. Great for a gray and rainy day off.

2: This Perfect Day by Ira Levin



God, this list is starting to look familiar. Any regular reader probably recognizes half of these books, including This Perfect Day. It's one of my favorites. Now, I love The Giver, I do, but this is better. So much better. It's very clear about the whole thing rather than leaving it to imagination like The Giver. You meet the people in charge. You see the escapees. You understand the full and complete level of the treachery committed in the name of keeping society peaceful. Chip doesn't quite fit in. Chip's genetics are flawed, leaving him with heterochromia, one brown eye and one blue. Chip questions the way things are done, and he isn't the only one. There are others around him, people who appreciate art and smoking and sex that isn't shortened by chemical injection. He gets in with them, but he's not happy with their small victories. He wants more. He wants true, actual freedom, and he's willing to fight for it.

1: The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem



You had to see this one coming, didn't you? It's my favorite book. No one's ever read it. I want them to read it. It's sci-fi. This list is about sci-fi. It may not be the least popular sci-fi book ever written, but it's not exactly popular, either. At least not in the states. It got quite a bit of notice when it was released in Poland. It's not a single narrative, rather a collection of vignettes about the illustrious constructors, Trurl and Klapaucius. From a run-in with a pirate desperate to collect information to a trip hunting dragons through the phases of probability, the stories are just fun, which is what this list seems to come down to. The science is… well, there really isn't any science. It's very heavy on the fiction. But it's brilliant. Completely and utterly brilliant, and a lot of the credit goes to the translator, Michael Kandel. Not only the text but the poetry was translated, rhyming intact.

So there it is. We did seven fantasy books, and now seven sci-fi books. So again, I turn to you: which books did I miss. What can I add to my bookshelf? Let me know, and subscribe up at the top, if you want to keep the dialogue open. I always like to hear from other readers.

Voss

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Writer Roundup: MyNoise



Here we are once again, and today, I have an interesting little website for you. It's called MyNoise.net, and it's a personal ambient noise generator, which is wonderful. There are a number of studies showing that ambient noise, in spite of what anyone might think, actually allows the human mind to focus better on the task at hand (I'll link some down below for you to look through at your leisure.). And if anyone needs help focusing, writers need help focusing. There's only so much your mind can handle, and writing tends to be a push toward the outer limits of that, depending on the day. Anything to help us get through those next two, three, or ten thousand words is good by me.



When you first go to MyNoise.net, you'll want to do the personal calibration. Go to the Online Noises tab and it should be in the top left box. That will take you to the calibration screen. All you do there is turn your volume up (I had to have mine all the way up, but I also don't use headphones, just my laptop speakers; please don't do anything that might damage your hearing.) to where you can hear the static it's producing, and then you'll adjust each slider to where that particular frequency is just barely audible. The hit done, and MyNoise will actually save all that calibration info for you, so it's there every time you come back (While I'm not fully sure of the mechanism involved in that data storage, I'm pretty sure they use cookies. So if you have cookies disabled, it most likely won't remember you. Fair warning.). Since over ninety percent of the sounds on there can be calibrated, it's worth the two or three minutes, I think.

MyNoise has more than a few generators. As a rough estimate, I would say 25-30, but don't quote me on that one. And, at the top of the Online Noises page, they give you a little legend that gives suggestions on the quality or effect of each noise generator. Eerie, meditation, noise blocker. My personal favorites, as of right now, are the Cat Purr, the Rain Noise, and the Himalayan Bowls.

Now, if you'd like to donate to them (they provide this whole service for free), please do. Not only does it help out, but it allows you to get the new sounds before non-contributors have access to them. Which makes me jealous, since they have a coffee shop generator in the works. I may have to donate and get that one.

And on the subject of coffee shop noise generators, I have a couple alternatives, as well, if you don't like MyNoise. The first one, Coffitivity, is a web app, but can also be downloaded onto Droid and iPhone/iPad (at one point, it could run on the basic Mac OS as well, but when I looked into it, the link was broken. If anyone knows otherwise, let me know and I'll edit the post accordingly). Coffitivity is a collection of recordings from various coffee shops all over the world. On the web app, you get three: the morning coffee run, the lunch rush, and a collegiate café.

The other one is Rainy Café. It only has two sliders to control—rain and café—but it's surprisingly useful. To boost my personal creativity, I prefer to crank the rain up really high and keep the coffee shop murmuring about halfway, maybe a little less. I guess white noise just works better for me.

If you have any other noise generators you love like this, particularly good ones that can run on Windows, let me know. They're some of my favorite productivity tools. If you want to hear what else I have to say, hit subscribe up on top of the page.

Articles:
http://99u.com/articles/16711/turn-it-up-how-the-right-about-of-ambient-noise-increases-creativity

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/how-the-hum-of-a-coffee-shop-can-boost-creativity/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Voss

Monday, July 21, 2014

4 Easy Steps to Take Charge of Your To-Be-Read Pile

Step 1: Throw out all the books I didn't write.

Problem solved.

In seriousness, though, readers have to-be-read piles. In what sense would we be readers if we didn't? And, if you're anything like me, your to-be-read pile is so large that you hide from it and read Harry Potter for the twentieth time rather than tackle the ever-mounting stack of literature threatening to topple down upon you.

Breathe. As much as I like Harry Potter... 


(and I do like it)...

we can't just go back to Hogwarts constantly. Or Westeros. Or Narnia, Panem, Cloral, and Wonderland. It just doesn't work that way. We need to grow and expand our minds, and the best way we as readers know to do that is to read. Read different things.

But fear not. It's not as hard as you think. It just takes a small amount of work on your part, and soon that to-be-read pile will slowly shrink down to something manageable.

Step 1 (The Actual Step 1): Don't stress about time. You probably have books that are a couple years old, and you just know that you need to read them, and you know that you should really read them before the half-dozen you just bought today, even though you really want to read your new books.

Breathe. Remember that. Just breathe. If you own a book, that means you own it. Plain and simple. You can read your personal books whenever and however you want. Reverse alphabetical order by the author's middle name? Absolutely fine. The order you buy books in doesn't have anything to do with the order you read them in. We do this for entertainment above anything else. So read what you think is going to entertain you today, not what's been on the shelf the longest.

Step 2: Library/borrowed books have a time limit. It really is something to remember. While I think Step 1 is more important, it's pretty vital to remember Step 2 as well. Books you borrow are like dear old friends who live across the country. You can only enjoy their company for a little while before they have to go back home. Still always read the book that claws for your attention the most, but if you have a library book or a book on loan from someone else versus a book that is wholly yours, at least consider whizzing through the borrowed book first.

Step 3: Remember whose to-be-read pile this is. It's not your neighbor's, or the Internet's, or mine or The New York Times' or Levar Burton's or anyone else's but your own. You don’t have to read anything you don't want to, no matter what anyone or anything might tell you. Tried Shakespeare? Good. Didn't like it? Good. Don't proceed to add 'The Complete Unabridged Works of William Shakespeare' to your pile. You won't get to it, and it's just going to add to your guilt. Focus on things you want to read.

Already have books that have been recommended, but just don't hold your interest? Purge them. Get them out of that pile. Sell them, donate them, keep them, use them to perform interpretive dance. Hell, send them my way, if you want to. I can always use more books. Just get them out of there. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks and read what you want and only what you want.

Step 4: Find time to read. This is the final step, and I'd say it's far and away the most important step. You have to find time to go through your pile. After all, you can't very well expect it to go down if you never touch it. So make time to get some reading done, realize how much time you actually have, and work with that. Don't get hard on yourself if it takes you a month or more to finish Les Miserables when you only have 10-15 minutes a day.

If you don't think you can make time to read, you're wrong. Audio books on the commute to work or in the shower. A book for bathroom breaks and lunch breaks and ankle breaks… wait. Back that one up. Don't break your ankle just to find more time to read. You have time. Heck, you just spent time reading this blog post, didn't you? And tomorrow, you'll have those five minutes extra to read your book.

Just do me a favor and read. It's good for us authors, and it's good for the world as a whole. After all: more art is a never a bad thing. But mostly, it's good for you. And that's what really counts.


Voss

Saturday, July 19, 2014

7 Under-appreciated Fantasy Reads

The history of sci-fi and fantasy is interesting. Most people know a little about it. Lord of the Rings setting the standard for adult high fantasy, the beginnings of sci-fi as early as Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe. The pulp books and dime novels. And then bigger and more popular books. But a lot of today's readers don’t know about the obscurity that has always plagued these genres. During the huge increase in growth during the sixties, houses and magazines were taking just about anything they could grab in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. Ever since then, most products of those genres have been woefully unknown. Even today, people see, I would estimate, maybe 10% of the fantasy and sci-fi books produced.

This week will be all about fantasy: what should you go and find, and why should you bother? I've got seven for you, and seven sci-fi books next Saturday.

7: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende




Wait, what? Who doesn't know about The Neverending Story?

I hear you, I get it. But there's a reason it's on this list: movie vs. book. Most people know The Neverending Story through the movies, not through actually reading the book. That's how it made my list.

As with the movies, the Neverending Story tells the story of a young boy named Bastian. One day, he finds himself in a book shop and, against the advice of the shopkeeper, he grabs The Neverending Story. In the attic of his school, he begins to read all about Fantastica and adventures of Atreyu.

The first movie fairly faithfully follows the first half of the book. But that's where the similarities stop. Once you reach the second movie, which is theoretically based on the second half of the book, things take a turn for the… different. I won't say the worse, since the second movie isn’t necessarily bad, but it's certainly not as good as the book was. The movies were somewhat sanitized for an American audience (the book was originally German: Die Unendliche Geschichte.). What happens in the last half of the book is considerably darker than movie fans may expect but, in the interest of letting you enjoy it as I did, I'll keep my lips shut on the subject.

6: In The Name of the Father



In The Name of the Father was published in 1980, and, unfortunately, I don't believe it ever received a lot of attention. My explanation: I think it was before its time. Had this book been written in modern times, I think it would have hit a lot bigger than it did. You begin with a boy and a demon and a kindly priest who rescues the boy from a cave. But that begins everyone's problems. Before long, the boy is a man, a priest like his father. And he can perform miracles. He makes water spring forth from the desert. He can control the wind. And he's being stalked by three she-demons. As the plot thickens, the influence of these hellish creatures seeps into the papacy itself. A blurring of the lines between fantasy and paranormal, this book is well worth tracking down. It's been a permanent inhabitant of my bookshelf since I found it in a secondhand shop almost a decade ago.

5: The Changeling Race by Frances Pauli



It's no secret that I'm a Frances Pauli fan. At least, not if you've read this blog with a fair amount of regularity. And The Changeling Race books (A Moth in Darkness, A Fly in Paradise, Spiders from Memory) were my initial introduction to her work, and still hold a very prominent place on my bookshelf, down with my other beloved series like Harry Potter and The Looking Glass Wars. It also, to this day, contains one of, if not my favorite, opening line: 'The dancing would kill her eventually.'

The Changeling Race trilogy details the story of Earth dealing with the recently opened connection between our realm and the realm of the fair folk: gnomes, fairies, elves, trolls, sidhe. But Liz's love, an elf, has been lost, and she turns to the fairy revels and their candy and wine to bring back her memories of Lockland, even if only for the night. But in the background, something more sinister brews. And it's something that could bring down both worlds…

… and also spoil the entire plot if I told you. Suffice it to say that I consider these books among my regular rereaders.

4: The Watershed Trilogy by Douglas Niles



Fans of Dragonlance will recognize Niles' name. But this is him alone, and he's made a beautiful world: the Watershed. Divided by mountains into the realm of magic, the realm of man, and the realm of darkness, it's not the world's most innovative fantasy series. What sells these books for me is the details. The bits of old documents topping each chapter, the system of magic based on three waters (basic water, tarlike darkblood, and rainbow-colored aqua), the depth of the religions, the history. While these are normally given just enough time on the page to whet your appetite, by the end of the third book, you feel quite fluent in the characters and history of the Watershed.

The main plot is simple enough: Rudy, a human blessed with the powers of both darkblood and aqua, fights against the minions of Dassadec, the sleepstealer. But there's something about these books I just can't seem to place. But I like it. I like it quite a bit.

3: Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson



Not as obscure as some of the other entries, I still find that many people aren't familiar with this book, or Ibbotson's work as a whole. While I think anything she's written is worth reading, Island of the Aunts is my favorite by far. Three sisters living on an island take care of creatures both real and mythical. Seals, birds, mermaids, selkies. But they realize that, at some point, they will die. And so they go to the city pretending to be nannies and grab three children to take over for them after they die. At first, of course, the children resist. But they come around… except one. He gets word to his father, bringing hell down upon the sanctuary at just the wrong time: the kraken, guardian of the seas, has just left its baby under the care of the aunts so it can go bring peace back to the world. If you like mythology, I would highly recommend this book.

2: You are so Undead to Me by Stacey Jay



This is another book I found secondhand, and the first time I ever felt bad about not paying full price for a book. It was that good. Again, this one somewhat blurs the lines between paranormal and fantasy. And that's okay by me. The main character, Megan Berry, settles the undead. They come to her with problems and it's her place to do whatever it takes to get them back in the grave. Sure, all she wants is to live the life of a normal teenage girl, but she knows better. It's not too bad. At least, not until someone starts using black magic to raise the undead, that is. She, of course, has to figure out just who it is, just what they want, and how to stop them. Otherwise homecoming might be ruined. Not to mention, you know, life.

1: Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom



This. This is a book. This is the book. I can sit there and read this, and then read it again, and then read it again. That's how brilliant it is. Not to mention the art, which is all done by the author. At the very least, I read this every holiday season.

Krampus: The Yule Lord poses, at it's core, a very simple question: if Krampus and Santa Claus got into a fight, who would win. If you don't know, Krampus is a European entity and the counterpart to Saint Nicholas. He takes bad children, stuffs them in bags, and beats them with birch switches. And in some places, people actually do this. You know, minus the actually hurting people part. Well, severely hurting people.

Krampus: The Yule Lord takes place in West Virginia. This year, Krampus has finally regained enough power to send out his servants, the belsnickels, to try and take down the dastardly devil Santa Claus. Because Krampus knows the truth about it all. He knows that Santa Claus wasn't always so jolly, and that he wasn't even always Santa Claus. He's suffered at the hands of Santa Claus for too long, and he intends to exact his revenge.

And this book, as a side note, has one of my favorite lines in any book, play, movie, TV show, or other form of medium: "Then let us go and be terrible."

So, what do you think? Have anything more for your bookshelves? Think I missed something vital in there? If so, tell me. And while you're at it, subscribe up at the top. Otherwise, I might just have to give Krampus your address.


Voss